By Deborah Goldstein
Few things in life are as rewarding as dog ownership. But where and how to find the perfect pooch? Here are five things to consider before starting your search.
Are you really ready to adopt a dog?
Don’t let last weekend’s Puppy Bowl or the upcoming Westminster Dog Show spur an impulse buy. Dogs require responsibility. Who will walk him if you get held up at the office? Do you have the time to train your dog if he won’t stop barking or refuses to obey? Who will care for him when you’re away on vacation or business? And then there’s the cost of food, grooming, trips to the vet, and other expenses, which can cost you more than $800 during your first year of dog ownership.
What breed works best for you?
Don’t base your decision on looks alone. As with any relationship, you’ll want a dog that complements your personality and lifestyle. For example, Jack Russell Terriers are adorable but high-energy and high-maintenance—probably best suited for a strong-willed owner, one without young children but with a backyard where the JRT can burn off some energy. Weimaraners are great for marathoners, since they can be taken on long runs. Labrador Retrievers make patient family dogs. Also great with children, German Shepherds double as watch dogs. Smaller breeds such as French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, or Pugs may be more manageable for apartment dwellers. In other words, consider how you’d like your future dog to gel with your household, then do your research on breeds.
Should you adopt a puppy?
The idea of raising a dog from puppyhood may seem like a great bonding experience, but training a puppy requires time and patience in spades. Senior dogs are likely to be the most mellow, though you’ll make more vet visits than with a younger dog—and you might have to un-train bad habits.
Where to start your search?
You can search for local dogs with Petfinder.com or AdoptaPet.com. No-kill shelters such as The Humane Society or ASPCA are terrific options, not just because you’re rescuing a dog in need of a home, but because they’ll be spayed or neutered and up-to-date on shots. Many shelters even provide free micro-chipping.
A reputable breeder can work, but move on if the breeder keeps her dogs in cages or is OK with weaning a puppy before 8 weeks. Steer clear of pet stores, which often get dogs from cruel puppy mills that raise them in small cages. These dogs are highly likely to be skittish and have serious health problems.
Can you take the dog on a “test run?”
If you can, foster your dog first. There’s no better way to see if you’ll make a great match. If your family members haven’t been tested for pet allergies, this is also a good way to find out, before you make the commitment. Keep in mind studies show that pets can help protect children against future allergies and health problems.